Session Information
ISSTD 27th Annual International Conference
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The Pierre Janet Memorial Lecture: Does Child Abuse Permanently Alter the Human Brain?
Track : Plenary
Program Code: P4
Date: Monday, October 18, 2010
Time: 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM  EST
Location: Salon West-2nd Flr
Martin Teicher, MD, PhD, Director, Developmental Biopsychiatry Research Program and Laboratory of Developmental Psychopharmac
Martin Teicher, MD, PhD, Director, Developmental Biopsychiatry Research Program and Laboratory of Developmental Psychopharmac
Research has repeatedly shown that abuse and other childhood adversities are associated with a wide variety of medical and psychological pathologies, including dissociative disorders. Dr. Teicher and others have proposed that altered brain development is a major consequence (and vehicle for the after-effects) of abuse. Dr. Teicher will present new research that seeks to answer two primary questions: (1) Does the timing of the abuse matter? and (2) Does the type of abuse matter? The answer to both questions appears to be "Yes". Dr. Teicher's research strongly suggests that there are sensitive periods during which certain regions of the brain are especially susceptible to the impact of childhood sexual abuse in females. Specifically, Dr. Teicher's research found that the hippocampus, corpus callosum and frontal cortex were most affected when sexual abuse occurred at ages 3-5, 9-10 and 14-16, respectively. The hippocampus appears to have a second sensitive period at 11-13 years. The risk of developing enduring forms of psychopathology was particularly high when subjects suffered sexual abuse during hippocampal sensitivity periods (i.e., ages 3-5 and 11-13). To evaluate whether different forms of abuse have different effects on the brain, Dr. Teicher compared neuroimaging results from different groups of abused subjects, each group having suffered only one form of abuse (childhood sexual abuse, verbal abuse, witnessing domestic violence, and harsh corporal punishment). He found that different kinds of abuse did, indeed, seem to produce different effects on the brain. Specifically, early abuse appears to affect the sensory systems that receive, process, and relay the abusive stimuli. Hence, children who were sexually abused or who witnessed domestic violence had a significantly smaller volume of gray matter in their visual cortices. Moreover, the neural pathway that connects the visual cortex to the limbic system was impaired. In contrast, children who were verbally abused had increased gray matter but decreased white matter in the auditory cortex and had an impaired neural pathway (arcuate fasciculus) between the language and speech areas of the brain (Wernicke's area and Broca's area). Finally, children who suffered harsh corporal punishment had alterations of their cortical pain pathways and significantly smaller volumes of gray matter in their prefrontal cortex. Dr. Teicher will describe the emotional, psychological, and behavioral consequence of these abuse-related alterations of the brain. In addition, he will discuss the neurobiological correlates of dissociative symptoms.

Learning Objectives:
  • Participants will be able to delineate clinical treatment differences based on age, developmental stage, and type(s) of abuse.
  • Participants will be able to describe basic brain functions that are affected by different types of abuse.
  • Participants will be able to describe sensitive developmental periods that increase a child's vulnerability to traumatic stress.

Audio (MP3) download
(Code: P4-a/P4)
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